3 Relationship Cures That Never Work (and the One That Does)
It’s always easy at the beginning. You meet someone new, you go on a few dates, you fall in love. With the most wonderful person.
Then, it starts creeping in. There’s that one thing they do…
If they could only be more _________.
If only they would stop _________.
The tension builds between the things you love about them and the things you hate. You have to make a choice about how to move forward, and you have some options. One of these is probably your default, so keep reading until you find the one that you recognize.
Option #1: You Drive Yourself Nuts
If you just try hard enough, you can stay in the game. You focus on the good stuff. You include them in your gratitude journal every day. You try not to take things personally. You try to get over yourself. You try to become more realistic in your expectations.
You say, “It’s all OK.” A lot. Other people see that something isn’t right, but you try and convince them that this person is really wonderful, and you know, it’s all OK.
Or, you feel like this relationship is the best you’re going to do, so you had better just live with it. You should be grateful this person even wants to be with you, so what right do you have to not like something about them?
But, the irritation is still there, isn’t it? You feel it building. And one day, it all blows up. You cannot stand that thing they do for another second!
This option is based on keeping your own feelings under control. You can think of the part of you that stores these feelings like a pressure cooker. If your pot lid is strong enough, you might succeed at this for a while. But, the thing about them that you hate just keeps turning up the heat, and at some point, the lid blows off and you’re right back at the place where you have to choose how to move forward.
Option #2: You Drive Them Nuts
In your mind, they will clearly be better off without that thing you hate about them, so you set out to change it. You’re doing them a favor, right?
You have your own particular flavor of this. Maybe you dictate. Or serve up ultimatums. Or cajole. Or quietly manipulate.
This might work for a while, too. But, people are not modeling clay. They’ve been building their likes and dislikes just as long as you have, and at some point, they will push back at your attempts, or they’ll just ignore your drive to change them completely.
This option is based on trying to control the other person. You’re just fine the way you are, and if they would only change, things would be perfect, right? And yet, if you’ve tried this enough, you know it just doesn’t work.
Option #3: You Build a Big Wall
You cut your losses and run. As fast as you possibly can. You can’t change yourself, and you can’t change them, so what’s the point of even trying? (A break-up isn’t always required. Many people stay in the relationship, but disappear within themselves at this point.)
You might feel like you always find the wrong person. Why can’t you find someone who respects your preferences and boundaries? Maybe that person doesn’t even exist. But, you try again, and the pattern repeats. Must. Get. Out.
You probably feel safest when you’re on your own, anyway. People just never see what’s important to you, no matter how loudly you ask for it. You might conclude that it’s just better to be alone than to keep repeating your futile attempts at intimacy.
This option is based on controlling the entire situation. When you are triggered, the safest thing to do is put up strong boundaries and let no one overrun them. But, unless you just really want to be alone the rest of your life, this is no solution to your relationship issues, either.
The Solution That Seems Impossible
Despite their overwhelming popularity, none of the above options work forever. Even if you manage to stick it out for years or through multiple relationships, you hit a wall. Something has to change.
All the books and self-help courses tell you that you must unconditionally accept your significant other to make your relationship work. But how? There are just some things you can’t live with!
Do you search forever to find the perfect person? Do they even exist? You always find the person who seems perfect at first, but then starts exhibiting all those traits that drive you crazy.
What Makes Accepting Someone Else So Hard?
Have you noticed the pattern? You always land in a similar place with relationships, even the non-romantic ones. What do all of these relationships have in common?
Something trapped inside of you keeps putting you in the same kind of relationship over and over. It’s also what makes accepting other people so difficult.
Early in life, you absorbed the feeling that there is something wrong with you being just the way you are. This Learned Distress becomes embedded in your sense of self, which is the automatic, generating force behind every moment of your life. Your negative situations and your way response to them are continually generated for you, without your conscious input or control, based on the feelings you absorbed before the age of 2 1/2.
Your inability to accept other people stems from your inability to accept yourself just as you are.
The feeling that there is something wrong with you makes you feel that relationships have to be a certain way for you to survive. Survival might depend on sweeping all the bad feelings under the rug and saying, “It’s all OK.” It might depend on taking all the blame yourself when a relationship doesn’t feel right. It might require the other person to be a certain way. Or, it might require you to put a thick wall between yourself and the rest of the world.
What Makes Accepting Someone Else Possible?
The good news is that you have something else trapped inside you, too. In fact, it is the core of who you are, and, though this may come as a surprise, it is all good. This natural well-being is the kernel of energy you began life with, and it’s the feeling that you are just right being you exactly as you are.
What happens when your sense of self uses your natural well-being as the automatic, generating force in your life, rather than your Learned Distress? What are relationships like when they are based on the feeling that you are all good being you just as you are?
First, the pressure comes off. That intense feeling that caused you to either control yourself, control them, or shut out everyone lessens as you remove layers of Learned Distress.
Second, you just feel better being you. And, the more you feel better about yourself, the less you need someone else to be a certain way. So, when they’re around you, other people feel better about being themselves, and they don’t even know why! More and more, you become one of those people who it feels good to be around.
Third, because people respond automatically to you based on how you feel about being you, people start treating you better–automatically! They point out your good qualities, they notice what matters to you and respond to it, they ask for your input on important things, they do things that make your life better, most often without you ever even asking for it.
Fourth, new relationships you find yourself in feel much more about the good in both people, and much less about catering too each other’s Learned Distress. You get to explore and build upon each other’s uniqueness and creativity.
What Kind of World Do You Want?
Can you see the ripple effect here?
The more you feel OK being yourself just as you are, the more other people feel that way around you.
The more you tap into your own well-being, the more you trigger the well-being in others.
The more your relationships are generated from well-being, the more creativity you unleash. Creativity that can bring about a better neighborhood, workplace, community, country, and world.
So, here’s to uncovering your well-being, not just for the good of your own relationships, but for the good of our world!